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As I sat in my study, in the twilight of that same day, the door was hurriedly opened, and Judy entered. She looked about the room with a quick glance to see that we were alone, then caught my hand in both of hers, and burst out crying.

"Why, Judy!" I said, "what IS the matter?" But the sobs would not allow her to answer. I was too frightened to put any more questions, and so stood silent—my chest feeling like an empty tomb that waited for death to fill it. At length with a strong effort she checked the succession of her sobs, and spoke.

"They are killing auntie. She looks like a ghost already," said the child, again bursting into tears.

"Tell me, Judy, what CAN I do for her?"

"You must find out, Mr Walton. If you loved her as much as I do, you would find out what to do."

"But she will not let me do anything for her."

"Yes, she will. She says you promised to help her some day."

"Did she send you, then?"

"No. She did not send me."

"Then how—what—what can I do!"

"Oh, you exact people! You must have everything square and in print before you move. If it had been me now, wouldn't I have been off like a shot! Do get your hat, Mr Walton."

"Come, then, Judy. I will go at once.—Shall I see her?"

And every vein throbbed at the thought of rescuing her from her persecutors, though I had not yet the smallest idea how it was to be effected.

"We will talk about that as we go," said Judy, authoritatively.

In a moment more we were in the open air. It was a still night, with an odour of damp earth, and a hint of green buds in it. A pale half-moon hung in the sky, now and then hidden by the clouds that swept across it, for there was wind in the heavens, though upon earth all was still. I offered Judy my arm, but she took my hand, and we walked on without a word till we had got through the village and out upon the road.

"Now, Judy," I said at last, "tell me what they are doing to your aunt?"

"I don't know what they are doing. But I am sure she will die."

"Is she ill?"

"She is as white as a sheet, and will not leave her room. Grannie must have frightened her dreadfully. Everybody is frightened at her but me, and I begin to be frightened too. And what will become of auntie then?"

"But what can her mother do to her?"

"I don't know. I think it is her determination to have her own way that makes auntie afraid she will get it somehow; and she says now she will rather die than marry Captain Everard. Then there is no one allowed to wait on her but Sarah, and I know the very sight of her is enough to turn auntie sick almost. What has become of Jane I don't know. I haven't seen her all day, and the servants are whispering together more than usual. Auntie can't eat what Sarah brings her, I am sure; else I should almost fancy she was starving herself to death to keep clear of that Captain Everard."

"Is he still at the Hall?"

"Yes. But I don't think it is altogether his fault. Grannie won't let him go. I don't believe he knows how determined auntie is not to marry him. Only, to be sure, though grannie never lets her have more than five shillings in her pocket at a time, she will be worth something when she is married."

"Nothing can make her worth more than she is, Judy," I said, perhaps with some discontent in my tone.

"That's as you and I think, Mr Walton; not as grannie and the captain think at all. I daresay he would not care much more than grannie whether she was willing or not, so long as she married him."

"But, Judy, we must have some plan laid before we reach the Hall; else my coming will be of no use."

"Of course. I know how much I can do, and you must arrange the rest with her. I will take you to the little room up-stairs—we call it the octagon. That you know is just under auntie's room. They will be at dinner—the captain and grannie. I will leave you there, and tell auntie that you want to see her."

"But, Judy,—-"

"Don't you want to see her, Mr Walton?"

"Yes, I do; more than you can think."

"Then I will tell her so."

"But will she come to me?"

"I don't know. We have to find that out."

"Very well. I leave myself in your hands."

I was now perfectly collected. All my dubitation and distress were gone, for I had something to do, although what I could not yet tell. That she did not love Captain Everard was plain, and that she had as yet resisted her mother was also plain, though it was not equally certain that she would, if left at her mercy, go on to resist her. This was what I hoped to strengthen her to do. I saw nothing more within my reach as yet. But from what I knew of Miss Oldcastle, I saw plainly enough that no greater good could be done for her than this enabling to resistance. Self-assertion was so foreign to her nature, that it needed a sense of duty to rouse her even to self-defence. As I have said before, she was clad in the mail of endurance, but was utterly without weapons. And there was a danger of her conduct and then of her mind giving way at last, from the gradual inroads of weakness upon the thews which she left unexercised. In respect of this, I prayed heartily that I might help her.

Judy and I scarcely spoke to each other from the moment we entered the gate till I found myself at a side door which I had never observed till now. It was fastened, and Judy told me to wait till she went in and opened it. The moon was now quite obscured, and I was under no apprehension of discovery. While I stood there I could not help thinking of Dr Duncan's story, and reflecting that the daughter was now returning the kindness shown to the mother.

I had not to wait long before the door opened behind me noiselessly, and I stepped into the dark house. Judy took me by the hand, and led me along a passage, and then up a stair into the little drawing-room. There was no light. She led me to a seat at the farther end, and opening a door close beside me, left me in the dark.

There I sat so long that I fell into a fit of musing, broken ever by startled expectation. Castle after castle I built up; castle after castle fell to pieces in my hands. Still she did not come. At length I got so restless and excited that only the darkness kept me from starting up and pacing the room. Still she did not come, and partly from weakness, partly from hope deferred, I found myself beginning to tremble all over. Nor could I control myself. As the trembling increased, I grew alarmed lest I should become unable to carry out all that might be necessary.

Suddenly from out of the dark a hand settled on my arm. I looked up and could just see the whiteness of a face. Before I could speak, a voice said brokenly, in a half-whisper:—

"WILL you save me, Mr Walton? But you're trembling; you are ill; you ought not to have come to me. I will get you something."

And she moved to go, but I held her. All my trembling was gone in a moment. Her words, so careful of me even in her deep misery, went to my heart and gave me strength. The suppressed feelings of many months rushed to my lips. What I said I do not know, but I know that I told her I loved her. And I know that she did not draw her hand from mine when I said so.

But ere I ceased came a revulsion of feeling.

"Forgive me," I said, "I am selfishness itself to speak to you thus now, to take advantage of your misery to make you listen to mine. But, at least, it will make you sure that if all I am, all I have will save you—"

"But I am saved already," she interposed, "if you love me—for I love you."

And for some moments there were no words to speak. I stood holding her hand, conscious only of God and her. At last I said:

"There is no time now but for action. Nor do I see anything but to go with me at once. Will you come home to my sister? Or I will take you wherever you please."

"I will go with you anywhere you think best. Only take me away."

"Put on your bonnet, then, and a warm cloak, and we will settle all about it as we go."

She had scarcely left the room when Mrs Oldcastle came to the door.

"No lights here!" she said. "Sarah, bring candles, and tell Captain Everard, when he will join us, to come to the octagon room. Where can that little Judy be? The child gets more and more troublesome, I do think. I must take her in hand."

I had been in great perplexity how to let her know that I was there; for to announce yourself to a lady by a voice out of the darkness of her boudoir, or to wait for candles to discover you where she thought she was quite alone—neither is a pleasant way of presenting yourself to her consciousness. But I was helped out of the beginning into the middle of my difficulties, once more by that blessed little Judy. I did not know she was in the room till I heard her voice. Nor do I yet know how much she had heard of the conversation between her aunt and myself; for although I sometimes see her look roguish even now that she is a middle-aged woman with many children, when anything is said which might be supposed to have a possible reference to that night, I have never cared to ask her.

"Here I am, grannie," said her voice. "But I won't be taken in hand by you or any one else. I tell you that. So mind. And Mr Walton is here, too, and Aunt Ethelwyn is going out with him for a long walk."

"What do you mean, you silly child?"

"I mean what I say," and "Miss Judy speaks the truth," fell together from her lips and mine.

"Mr Walton," began Mrs Oldcastle, indignantly, "it is scarcely like a gentleman to come where you are not wanted—-"

Here Judy interrupted her.

"I beg your pardon, grannie, Mr Walton WAS wanted—very much wanted. I went and fetched him."

But Mrs Oldcastle went on unheeding.

"—-and to be sitting in my room in the dark too!"

"That couldn't be helped, grannie. Here comes Sarah with candles."

"Sarah," said Mrs Oldcastle, "ask Captain Everard to be kind enough to step this way."

"Yes, ma'am," answered Sarah, with an untranslatable look at me as she set down the candles.

We could now see each other. Knowing words to be but idle breath, I would not complicate matters by speech, but stood silent, regarding Mrs Oldcastle. She on her part did not flinch, but returned my look with one both haughty and contemptuous. In a few moments, Captain Everard entered, bowed slightly, and looked to Mrs Oldcastle as if for an explanation. Whereupon she spoke, but to me.

"Mr Walton," she said, "will you explain to Captain Everard to what we owe the UNEXPECTED pleasure of a visit from you?"

"Captain Everard has no claim to any explanation from me. To you, Mrs Oldcastle, I would have answered, had you asked me, that I was waiting for Miss Oldcastle."

"Pray inform Miss Oldcastle, Judy, that Mr Walton insists upon seeing her at once."

"That is quite unnecessary. Miss Oldcastle will be here presently," I said.

Mrs Oldcastle turned slightly livid with wrath. She was always white, as I have said: the change I can describe only by the word I have used, indicating a bluish darkening of the whiteness. She walked towards the door beside me. I stepped between her and it.

"Pardon me, Mrs Oldcastle. That is the way to Miss Oldcastle's room. I am here to protect her."

Without saying a word she turned and looked at Captain Everard. He advanced with a long stride of determination. But ere he reached me, the door behind me opened, and Miss Oldcastle appeared in her bonnet and shawl, catrying a small bag in her hand. Seeing how things were, the moment she entered, she put her hand on my arm, and stood fronting the enemy with me. Judy was on my right, her eyes flashing, and her cheek as red as a peony, evidently prepared to do battle a toute outrance for her friends.

"Miss Oldcastle, go to your room instantly, I COMMAND you," said her mother; and she approached as if to remove her hand from my arm. I put my other arm between her and her daughter.

"No, Mrs Oldcastle," I said. "You have lost all a mother's rights by ceasing to behave like a mother, Miss Oldcastle will never more do anything in obedience to your commands, whatever she may do in compliance with your wishes."

"Allow me to remark," said Captain Everard, with attempted nonchalance, "that that is strange doctrine for your cloth."

"So much the worse for my cloth, then," I answered, "and the better for yours if it leads you to act more honourably."

Still keeping himself entrenched in the affectation of a supercilious indifference, he smiled haughtily, and gave a look of dramatic appeal to Mrs Oldcastle.

"At least," said that lady, "do not disgrace yourself, Ethelwyn, by leaving the house in this unaccountable manner at night and on foot. If you WILL leave the protection of your mother's roof, wait at least till tomorrow."

"I would rather spend the night in the open air than pass another under your roof, mother. You have been a strange mother to me—and Dorothy too!"

"At least do not put your character in question by going in this unmaidenly fashion. People will talk to your prejudice—and Mr Walton's too."

Ethelwyn smiled.—She was now as collected as I was, seeming to have cast off all her weakness. My heart was uplifted more than I can say.—She knew her mother too well to be caught by the change in her tone.

I had not hitherto interrupted her once when she took the answer upon herself, for she was not one to be checked when she chose to speak. But now she answered nothing, only looked at me, and I understood her, of course.

"They will hardly have time to do so, I trust, before it will be out of their power. It rests with Miss Oldcastle herself to say when that shall be."

As if she had never suspected that such was the result of her scheming, Mrs Oldcastle's demeanour changed utterly. The form of her visage was altered. She made a spring at her daughter, and seized her by the arm.

"Then I forbid it," she screamed; "and I WILL be obeyed. I stand on my rights. Go to your room, you minx."

"There is no law human or divine to prevent her from marrying whom she will. How old are you, Ethelwyn?"

I thought it better to seem even cooler than I was.

"Twenty-seven," answered Miss Oldcastle.

"Is it possible you can be so foolish, Mrs Oldcastle, as to think you have the slightest hold on your daughter's freedom? Let her arm go."

But she kept her grasp.

"You hurt me, mother," said Miss Oldcastle.

"Hurt you? you smooth-faced hypocrite! I will hurt you then!"

But I took Mrs Oldcastle's arm in my hand, and she let go her hold.

"How dare you touch a woman?" she said.

"Because she has so far ceased to be a woman as to torture her own daughter."

Here Captain Everard stepped forward, saying,—

"The riot-act ought to be read, I think. It is time for the military to interfere."

"Well put, Captain Everard," I said. "Our side will disperse if you will only leave room for us to go."

"Possibly I may have something to say in the matter."

"Say on."

"This lady has jilted me."

"Have you, Ethelwyn?"

"I have not."

"Then, Captain Everard, you lie."

"You dare to tell me so?"

And he strode a pace nearer.

"It needs no daring. I know you too well; and so does another who trusted you and found you false as hell."

"You presume on your cloth, but—" he said, lifting his hand.

"You may strike me, presuming on my cloth," I answered; "and I will not return your blow. Insult me as you will, and I will bear it. Call me coward, and I will say nothing. But lay one hand on me to prevent me from doing my duty, and I knock you down—or find you more of a man than I take you for."

It was either conscience or something not so good that made a coward of him. He turned on his heel.

"I really am not sufficiently interested in the affair to oppose you. You may take the girl for me. Both your cloth and the presence of ladies protect your insolence. I do not like brawling where one cannot fight. You shall hear from me before long, Mr Walton."

"No, Captain Everard, I shall not hear from you. You know you dare not write to me. I know that of you which, even on the code of the duellist, would justify any gentleman in refusing to meet you. Stand out of my way!"

I advanced with Miss Oldcastle on my arm. He drew back; and we left the room.

As we reached the door, Judy bounded after us, threw her arms round her aunt's neck, then round mine, kissing us both, and returned to her place on the sofa. Mrs Oldcastle gave a scream, and sunk fainting on a chair. It was a last effort to detain her daughter and gain time. Miss Oldcastle would have returned, but I would not permit her.

"No," I said; "she will be better without you. Judy, ring the bell for Sarah."

"How dare you give orders in my house?" exclaimed Mrs Oldcastle, sitting bolt upright in the chair, and shaking her fist at us. Then assuming the heroic, she added, "From this moment she is no daughter of mine. Nor can you touch one farthing of her money, sir. You have married a beggar after all, and that you'll both know before long."

"Thy money perish with thee!" I said, and repented the moment I had said it. It sounded like an imprecation, and I know I had no correspondent feeling; for, after all, she was the mother of my Ethelwyn. But the allusion to money made me so indignant, that the words burst from me ere I could consider their import.

The cool wind greeted us like the breath of God, as we left the house and closed the door behind us. The moon was shining from the edge of a vaporous mountain, which gradually drew away from her, leaving her alone in the midst of a lake of blue. But we had not gone many paces from the house when Miss Oldcastle began to tremble violently, and could scarcely get along with all the help I could give her. Nor, for the space of six weeks did one word pass between us about the painful occurrences of that evening. For all that time she was quite unable to bear it.

When we managed at last to reach the vicarage, I gave her in charge to my sister, with instructions to help her to bed at once, while I went for Dr Duncan.

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